raising monarch butterflies

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I invite you to gaze upon my caterpillar nursery!  I put it together for myself and the family and anyone who comes over to visit. . . . . . .

Year after year, indeed for the last 11 years we have lived on this property (four acres boarding state land), I have kept watch in the later summer days for monarch caterpillars.  (They are only ever on milkweed).  If I see a caterpillar, I collect it and bring it home to raise on the counter in a big jar or a fish tank.  (We used to have a different fish tank but it broke when someone tried putting rocks in it).

We were fortunate to find perhaps 4 caterpillars, and sometimes none at all.  This year, however, this epic summer of 2017, we have found over 20 of them.  If I were more scientific, I would do a precise count, but it is rather difficult and confusing to try to count caterpillars when they are all over the place and in various sizes.

I am a busy mom and wife, it’s a wonder that I have time to sit and watch a caterpillar nursery at all….or write a blog!  But these things give me much needed rest and enjoyment, they are interests that I have……and no matter what your interest and passion is….big or small….it should be pursued and nourished.

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I picked these five off their milkweed (which was almost gone) and put them on the floor of the tank so I could give them fresh food.  They looked so cute all in a row that I had to take a photo of them.

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Every couple of days I replace the leaves from the three small bud vases I have in the tank with fresh milkweed from the garden, which is conveniently right outside the kitchen door.  Caterpillars are naturally very hungry and grow quickly.  It’s fun to watch their little heads go up and down the edges of the milkweed like tiny machines.  I bet if it were quieter in my house I might even hear them chewing.

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Can you see the difference in this caterpillar?   Grace and I found two of them on Queen Anne’s lace down by the pond.  We are almost positive that they are the caterpillars of Black Swallowtail Butterflies.

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An urge that I have so far neglected this summer is to get out colored pencils and draw these beautiful patterns that I see. . . .(maybe today?)

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I clipped some cut-to-size screen (from an old window) to the top edge of the tank with clothespins.  When the they have eaten their full and are “ready”, the caterpillars go to the screen to “dangle” for a day or two, before bursting their caterpillar skin to reveal a most beautiful green and gold chrysalis beneath.

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This one’s small but they start out even smaller…..

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I have to laugh when I go out to collect fresh food for them because I inevitably end up bringing inside even MORE caterpillar babies.  David says, “Mom, how many do you NEED?”  He is probably the child who is most interested in them and I love to see his face peering into the tank.

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“Oh no this one looks different, what’s wrong with it?”  I watched it closely and realized it was molting.  It was gripped to the leaf with it’s “end” and wriggling the skin down, rather like when you or I take off stockings with our hands, and “stepping out” fresh and clean.

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Almost done!

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Ah, it feels so good.

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“fresh and clean”

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An empty chrysalis next to six green ones.

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This caterpillar is getting ready to “dangle” by finding the perfect spot on the screen and attaching itself to it with its homemade silk.  The children get nervous if I move the screen, they are afraid the chrysalises might fall off, but they are firmly attached and “just think, outside they would be safe even in the winds and rain”.  So I move the screen in confidence.

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This one had attached itself to a milkweed leaf, which wasn’t a good choice, because eventually the other caterpillars ate the leaf causing the chrysalis to drop down to the bottom of the cage.  I picked it up and dangled it over the edge of the tank.  When I hear the children say, “Mom, one of them is black!” I know that we will soon see a butterfly.

In fact, as I am writing this, a butterfly has newly hatched right in front of our eyes, and three more black ones are ready to come out any minute.

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Why just put milkweed in the tank when you can also add flowers?

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They make lovely strands of silk.  I took a picture right after this caterpillar molted.  You can see its bunched up rag of old skin up at the top of the photo.

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They eat so much I wondered what I would do if we ran out of leaves (it won’t happen this year) and then I noticed that where I picked the leaves off, new ones are growing!

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new leaves!!!

I know, this is a simple gardening concept, but I never thought to apply it to my milkweed!  The resilience of growing things is amazing.

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Milkweed grows outside the kitchen door, mingled in with our lilac bush.

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And more milkweed (tall stalks with long oval leaves) is in the side garden.

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I had to laugh when I saw a chrysalis outside in the lilac bush, I guess I missed bringing this one inside!!

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I can move the chest of drawers around to get a better view, or better lighting for photos.

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It stays like this most of the time.  Better than any TV show.

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It’s fascinating to watch them split, revealing a bright green underneath.

These changes are done so silently and quickly that we miss it most of the time.

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It wriggles in such a strange fashion and the bunch of skin drops to the bottom of the tank.

I did a short video while I was blogging this post.

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They first come out with their body much bigger than their wings.  I always think of origami when I see them emerge……it’s sort of like reverse origami.  Only God could package something up like this and have it come out as beautiful as a butterfly…

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The butterfly hangs and dries, once in a while a drip of fluid will fall.  Once I see them opening their wings for the first time I will take them carefully outside on a stick and put them up on the lilac bush.

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“I look upon a year lived as a year earned; and each year earned means a greater treasury of experience and power laid up against time of need.”  Anna Botsford Comstock

“God created the heavens and the earth to be experienced, not just read about or lectured upon.”  Bob Schultz

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efforts on the last day of summer

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“….a little boy grows up so fast….”

I was secretly calling Saturday the last day of summer because it was our oldest son’s last day at home before leaving for college the next morning.  So I made the effort to take some photos of the ordinary family living that I hold so dear to my heart, knowing deep down that while life will go on just as beautiful and ordinary as ever, parts of it were ending and beginning anew in other parts of the world…….not too far, thankfully.  Jacob and Ethan will be at college together in Vermont this year (3 hours away), and our sweet Grace will be in Pennslyvania (about five hours distance).  As the children grow up, things within the home change, but the bond we have stays true, and the love we share will never die, and indeed, my deepest desire and hope is that it will continue to grow up and out as our family grows up and and out.

So these efforts were made by me in the realm of photography, and the only other effort I made personally was to be “hands off” on the day and let it be as normal as possible, because I have finally learned that while deep in my soul I am in a type of motherly mourning for the fleetness of the years, no one else in the family necessarily needs to know.  🙂

So what did we do?  Jacob headed for work, sicker than a dog, and Rich left for the chiropractor’s with Ethan (they are both getting work done on their backs) and Caleb (who needed a hair cut after the doctor’s appointment).

DSC_1346Confession:  somehow, even though I was truly trying,  I just realized this morning that I took not one single photo of Grace, so I am inserting this one from last weekend, when I caught the sisters sharing a moment over pancakes.  In reality, Grace was so busy on Saturday….she had driver’s practice in the morning, and then worked all afternoon until 7pm….that I somehow didn’t take any pictures of her.

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The brightest red wildflower is in bloom down by the banks of our stream.  It’s like a jungle down there so I can’t get as close as I’d like……

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I watched busy buzzing bees collect pollen all over the wild and tall Joe Pye Weed and then, saw the most beautiful dragonfly I’d ever seen…..

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RED!  DARK RED!

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with shimmering wings!  I admired it until it flitted away.

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Next to the garage we have a tiny wild pond where bullfrogs hang out all day.  I enjoy sneaking  around to spy on them and they always freeze like this and stare at me.  I want to sit down there sometime and see what they REALLY do……

And then, the guys finally got home and went to work on Rich’s car.  Yep, that was the real theme of the weekend;  “Put The Motor In”.

Rich has been itching to do it all winter long and had big boxes in the house which were all delivered and saved carefully for The Day.

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Nice haircut, Caleb.

Now get to work!

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Nothing makes Rich more annoyed than not being able to find his tools because the children have been running off with them and not returning them to the proper place.  Nothing that is, except maybe water running through the ceiling because Seth didn’t have the shower curtain in the bathtub and was getting water everywhere on the floor upstairs…..ask me how I know this…..so the first thing they did was find Dad’s tools, while Rich and Ethan organized and Sarah cleaned.

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The car is under the tarp.  Waiting for it’s motor.

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I’m pretty sure this is it.  🙂

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Sarah was very conscientious about sweeping the floor.

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Seth wasn’t as conscientious about finding Dad’s tools.

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David

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Oh and Jacob was able to get out of work a little early and he went straight to bed, spending his last day at home SICK and asleep.

(I think it’s amusing that the dog is in a lot of these photos being ignored.  But he gets his revenge later.)

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Bringing the boxes out of the house (finally!) and into the garage.

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Finally they were ready and the younger boys snuck away.  David was called for duty now and then, but Ethan was the main helper of the entire day all the way up until it was too late to visit Tessa and he was secretly annoyed.

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I mean, as his mother, I could sort of tell.  But Rich, as his father, certainly didn’t care.  He needed his son and Ethan has vacation days coming up this week to visit his girlfriend.  (It reminded me of when Rich and I were dating all those summers ago and he had to bale hay all weekend for his dad while I was left to my own amusement at home…..so I took pity while Rich just felt like it was the only natural thing to do; helping Dad…there’s no way out of it, not even girlfriends.)

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The younger boys hung out on the patio between the house and the garage.

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And I found Sarah had vanished to her room to play the DS.  So I sent her right back outside to enjoy the beautiful day.

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They made a cake.

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Eventually, hours and hours later, I picked the camera back up to take a picture of CHICKEN that I grilled myself……

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And this is where the dog got his revenge for being “ignored//neglected” all day.

After we all ate, he stole the leftovers off the kitchen counter, eating the chicken and neatly leaving the sticks on the carpet in the living room.  We all got mad because that was really good chicken and I had made a ton so we could enjoy the leftovers, not feed them to the dog.

We ended our day by watching TV on the couch in the dark, all tired out.

*****

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This is where things get sad you might want to turn away.

I woke up at 5:30 on Sunday morning to see my son off.  Rich was already awake and in the garage with his car but the rest of the family was asleep as Jacob finished packing his car to leave, although I did hear Seth stir and call out, “Bye, Jay!” from his bed, as he will greatly miss his big brother, too.

I followed him around, back and forth to the car and house, not unlike the dog, silently and with wishful eyes.

We hugged twice.  We held it together.

It was a beautiful morning, with bits of pink in the sky.

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I looked at his dear possessions everywhere in his car, that say “Jacob” to me in so many ways……his collection of hats from working at “LIDS” all summer….his new sneakers that I bought for him during a quick shopping trip we had together last week.

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His music, his new fridge, all his clothes and books (he took a big box of books, which made me smile and touched my heart…I remember when he read them all…and sister Grace struggled with sharing some of them..namely the JRR Tolkien books…), my dear 20 year old son, how thankful I am that I had all of these years with you before you moved on to new adventures taking classes and playing football at college.  I am blessed to call you son and friend.  We’ve had such good times together, haven’t we?  Your downstairs room in the basement is too quiet and still already but we’ll keep it ready for those visits back home!

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“So the life of the true home flows on, sometimes in the bright sunshine, sometimes in the deep shadow; yet whether in the sunshine or in shadow it brings blessing.  It shelters us in the day of storm.  Its friendships remain true and loyal when adversity fails and other friendships are broken.  It lays holy hands of benediction upon our heads as we go out to meet life’s struggles and duties.  Its sacred influences keep us from many a mistake.  Its memories are our richest inheritance.  Its inspirations are the secret strength of our lives in days of toil and care.  Then it teaches us to look toward heaven and the great Home in which all our hearts, hopes, and dreams shall be realized, and where the broken ties of earth shall be reunited.”  JR Miller

 

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boys on stilts

I smashed the screen of my iPhone last night when Rich and I were walking.  I had whipped it out from my back pocket to check my steps for the day and it kept flying right out of my hand, landing face down on the road.  It still works, but after a day of looking at it covered in hairline fractures it is a relief to be in front of my computer screen.  The computer screen is so perfectly NOT broken!

Grace and I went to breakfast this morning after a morning of cleaning the house.  Jacob stayed home and watched the rest of the kids.  Grace and I took our books, of course.  She is reading Mark Twain and I’m reading a biography of Jane Fonda of all things.  (I recently read an autobiography by Doris Day, too)  I found a new podcast to listen to that appeals to my “memoir” side, the side of me that LOVES learning about other people’s lives no matter how they lived it, which compelled me to pick up Fonda’s book at the library yesterday.  The podcast is called “You must remember This” and it’s about first century Hollywood.  Like most podcasts, not every episode is worth listening to but the few I have heard gave me a lot to think about in regards to the entertainment culture of that time period.  There is nothing new under the sun!

One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
planet earth.  Ecclesiastes 1:9

So anyways, we read and ate and then went to Goodwill where she found me a fiesta jumbo mug in cobalt for one dollar.  I passed right by it!  We shared a hug in the aisles of Goodwill.  She found a cute little dress and I bought a few books, too.  Then we went to the grocery store to get things for spaghetti because last night Rich came home and was so happy to step through the door into the house……to the smell of spaghetti.  His eyes lit right up and he smiled big…….only it was roast pork and corn on the cob.  So I promised him spaghetti today.

When we got home I put everything in the crock pot for a good sauce; homemade meatballs and chunks of sausage that David cut up for me, a big chopped onion, spices, and a big can of tomatoes.

Grace had her friends Brittany and Tessa over (who also happen to be Jacob’s girlfriend and Ethan’s girlfriend) to make homemade ice cream and I went for a power walk and was almost bitten by a dog.  I was so scared.  The owner was a very large man on his riding lawn mower who couldn’t be bothered to get off it and his dog (pit bull?) was not on his leash.  The dog was following the man around as he mowed and then when he saw me, he ran full force at me, barking in a very scary way and came so close, I could feel it’s breath and mouth touch me as I clutched myself and stood very still…..I eventually got away while the large man simply yelled at his dog.  The dog ran down the road at me a second time, barking.  I didn’t know what to do.  Should I call animal control and complain?  The dog did everything but actually BITE me.  When I had to turn around and walk back, I went into the woods to get past his house because I was so nervous.  How ridiculous to have to do that!

Safely home now, and blogging from the chair in my bedroom.  The house is completely clean; all beds made, bathrooms spotless, because the two maids came today (every Friday), dinner in the crock pot, so it feels extra wonderful to be able to relax.  David is watching soccer videos on Youtube and the girls are upstairs now, visiting.

I’m posting photos today that I took last night when Caleb came in to say, “Mom come and see this”.  I was tired so I said, as I got up off the couch, “This better be good.”

He was on stilts!  Grace got them from Mrs. D at the HS when she helped her clean out the Drama Props Closet.

Thank you Mrs. D!

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It was worth it!

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David had to try.  (you can see a small part of Caleb,too)

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And there’s Sarah in her nightie ready for bed.

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Big sis and big bro looking on……..

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Seth wearing his watch that he got in his Subway kids meal.

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Summertime + end of the day playtime outside = the BEST.

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Ethan’s turn!

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Parker is smiling!  with his girl.

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Sarah wanted to try getting on the stilts but I said “go put something on under your nightie first.” so she did, happily.

*****

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THIS beautiful sunset sky is the reason why everything was pink last night.

 

Oh, how sweet the light of day,
And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!
Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.
Take delight in each light-filled hour…….. Ecclesiastes 11:7 MSG

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madame butterfly

Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

“I trust You.  Give me wisdom.  Give me love to spill over.  My life is Yours.”

*~*~*~*~*~*

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A simply DRENCHED bumble bee, waiting out the rain on a bee balm blossom.

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I don’t know…..but again, drenched.

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close up of a zinnia.. .. .gorgeous color pink.

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My nature studies have gone from birds to bees and other insects.  It’s such a pleasure to walk around the outskirts of our lawn, where the mowed grass meets the wilder grasses and flowers and look for insects.  There are always interesting things to see.

I still like to watch for birds, too.  In fact, I keep seeing a yellow warbler (wearing a black mask) peeping at me from the bushes, it must be distracting me from seeing a nest because it’s a typically shy bird.  I’ll try to photograph it today.

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breathtaking greens and yellow

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I showed Sarah the photos and when she realized what she was seeing, she said “Delete it!”

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This is my favorite photo of the bunch.  The wings!  Did you ever guess there would be wings like this on a tiny bug?  (it’s on a yarrow flower, a common wildflower in our area)

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It’s not a very clear photo because just as I was taking it I felt a cold thing go across my bare big toe………

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It was a big juicy worm.

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This gorgeous bug, if it senses an enemy near. . . . .

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….drops down and plays dead.  It literally plays dead!  It had me fooled for a moment.

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Yesterday I was on the porch and saw a Monarch fly by.  I walked around to follow it and discovered it busily laying eggs on the milkweed that I let grow in the garden.  See how it presses it’s tail to the leaf?

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It leaves an egg behind, a teeny white egg.  When it hatches, the caterpillar will be all set because it simply LOVES milkweed leaves.

By gently turning the leaves over on the plants I have found at least 5 eggs.  We plan on collecting them after they hatch and watching them grow.  It’s one of our favorite summertime nature studies.

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A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Proverbs 31:30

 

 

madame moth

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One evening this week I went into my room and found a large brown moth playing a rather dangerous game of tag with the ceiling fan spinning over my bed.  I quickly turned the fan off but the moth continued to fly around like something crazy so I turned off all but one of the lights in the room.  The moth gravitated toward it and settled down on a closet door.  I was able to get a photo and then attempted to trap it under a large glass in order to take it outside where it belonged.  However, Madame Moth had other ideas and escaped the glass with fluttering wings…..to my shoulder.  I did a quick, sly shuffle, while squealing, toward the door but alas, it vanished off my shoulder and disappeared.  For the remainder of the night I found myself absentmindedly brushing at my hair and clothes.  I hadn’t seen the moth fly away and felt as if it were still on me somewhere.

The next morning……….

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I found it on the light pink curtains in the bathroom.  The curtain rod was one of those spring loaded kinds that can be adjusted between the window frame so I took another photo and then pulled the entire curtain down and took it and the moth outside….where it belonged.  We have a large wrap around porch and I put the curtains on the quiet side, away from doors and activity of people and pets, on a small table.  The poor moth was so still and silent that I wondered if it was even alive.  I checked on it throughout the day and it never moved.  I felt badly that I hadn’t been able to get it outside the night before when it was so obviously full of life.

The next morning…….

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It was gone, all but a single leg and 11 chartreuse colored eggs.  I think it left it’s leg behind because even I had a hard time removing it from the curtain, it was hooked into the fabric rather tightly.

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The eggs look amazingly like green grapes.

you’re part of my heart

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SUMMER
VACATION

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We went to the playground.

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The boys had friends over to play baseball, football, video games, fishing, swimming….

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If we should be so lucky
as to touch the lives of many, so be it.
But if our lot is not more than the setting of a table,
or the tending of a garden,
or showing a child a path in the woods,
our lives are no less worthy.
Kent Nerburn

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Grace and I went for a long walk through the woods, visited Sam-cat and the chickens.  She read to me the medicinal values of yarrow and elderberry, she chewed yarrow even though she didn’t have a tooth ache and said it made her tongue numb.  Mountain Laurel is in bloom and almost done.  We ate wild strawberries and sniffed deeply of wild roses.

I think this is how we’re supposed
to be in the world ~
present and in awe.
Anne Lamott

We went together to take our small visitors home and then to the grocery store where she is getting ready to work this summer.  I made chili and pasta for dinner.

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It’s fake blood.

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I sent Sarah upstairs to play while I worked in the kitchen.  When I went to get her for dinner I found her on the floor…fast asleep.

Summertime, fun and exhausting!

How was your day?

life itself is grace

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(violets for thia) my friend

“Real love creates a generous openness.  Have you ever been so caught up in something that you just had to share it?  When you are walking alone in the woods, something takes your breath away–a sunset, a waterfall, the simple song of a bird–and you think, ‘If only my beloved were here’.  The best things in life were meant to be shared.”
The Sacred Romance, by John Eldredge

I do so love to share life with you here.  We had a full and happy weekend and I know you did, too.  Isn’t it grand?  Air to breath, faces to smile, good food to enjoy, family, friends, sports, hometown plays, children, grown ups, secrets?

beautiful things don’t ask for attention

open your eyes and notice (be on the look out!)

often life brings me to tears

lovely things are silent

Lovely things are silent….
Rosebuds waxing bloom,
Shadows stealing softly
In a darkened room;
Dragonflies on rushes,
Stars in dark blue skies;
Hatching, fuzzy birdlets,
Love in sweethearts’ eyes.

Lovely things are silent. . .
Rainbows in the sky,
Violets shedding fragrance,
A soft breeze waltzing by;
An apple tree in blossom,
Sunsets all aglow;
Moonlight on the water,
Falling soft white snow.

Lovely things are silent. . .
Foam clouds in the sky,
Hummingbirds at flowers,
Butterflies gliding by,
A spider’s dainty spinning,
Wild flowers on a hill.
I bow my head in silence
And in my heart I’m still.
~Betty Fox Solberg

It’s 44 degrees at our place this morning and there is a cheerful fire going in our wood pellet stove.  I’m still in my comfortable clothes, with thick socks and slippers on, too.  Jacob is getting ready for college and work, our chocolate lab is snoring at my feet.  Cat snoozing on the windowsill behind me.  The house is quiet and peaceful.

Outside purple and white violets are still in bloom.  Some of our town has lilacs open, but mine are not flowered yet.  I worry about the trees because last year’s gypsy moth eggs have hatched, there are tiny baby caterpillars everywhere.  Baby turtles were found on the bank of the pond this weekend, a miracle in miniature.

‘Tis the season of shivering as we watch our boys play little league baseball.

My husband preached yesterday in church.  The whole service did something to my heart; softened it.  Love was in the air.

Our daughter Grace is a senior in High school.  There is nervousness in the family because we know “last times” are happening and happening fast.  In the fall, our three oldest children will be going away to college.

This weekend was “the last school drama production”.  I cried and so did she.  Oh how she has loved being part of it all. . . .

Grandma and Grandpa came to watch her.  We had time for a ramble in the woods and a trip to town, too.  Ice cream cones, laughter, games of catch for the boys.

*  * * *

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.”

“. . . .this happened (life itself?) so that the work of God might be displayed.”

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girls visiting before getting ready for the play on Saturday; Brittany and Grace

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our family pianist

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Grandma’s here!

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my mom, my friend

we enjoy the same things; home decorating, kitchen life, family, and nature, birding. . .

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I ran the baby turtle back to the house to show the children. A wonder and a marvel.

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thick grapevine growing up and into a tree

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marsh marigold, ferns growing

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crossing the stream with a handful of apple blossoms

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garden flowers

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granddaughter and her grandma

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the brothers were practicing baseball and grandpa couldn’t resist joining in

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I think ofttimes as the night draws nigh
Of an old house on the hill,
Of a yard all wide and blossom-starred
Where children played at will.  ~Author Unknown

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coffeeshop

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street bench

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little lady with her grandpa, eating chocolate

ice cream

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Grace’s last high school drama production:  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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dancing in the middle of the stage with the boy in white shirt

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“Old bamboo” number

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scene at the beach song and dance

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very old inventors “The Roses of Success” song and dance (Grace is in the middle)

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teamwork song (second to end, next to her friend Jenna)

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“The Bombie Samba”

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final bows

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finale

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a touching tribute to their beloved director, as this was her last musical

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after the show on Saturday night

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lots of hugs

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with her proud Grandpa and Dad

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after the show on Sunday

many tears were shed

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Dad with his precious daughter; we are so proud of you, Grace.

Happy Monday friends!

thankful for:

friendship
love notes on the counter from an older brother
little hands touching my hair
questions from curious minds
my husband’s embrace
my husband going to the gas station to get me cream for my coffee this morning
a caring school nurse calling to tell me Sarah has a sore throat
purring cats
warmth inside when outside is shivery
guitar clips via text from Ethan, who is coming home this week
the start of a fresh new week; may God bless us everyone!

“And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.”  Isaiah 35:7